It is believed that whenever injustice and negative forces prevail on Earth, Lord Visnu comes in various forms to uproot them. So, Lord Visnu incarnates from time to time to eradicate the evil forces which seem to threaten the existence of mankind. Lord Visnu is believed to have taken on nine incarnations or avatars till now and the tenth avatar will descend on Earth at the end of the Kali Yuga. Hence, these ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu is collectively known as the Dashavatar. The first three avatars which descended on Earth was during the Sat Yuga, the next three in the Treta Yuga, seventh, eight and ninth incarnations appeared in the Dwapara Yuga. The tenth avatar is said to appear in the Kali Yuga.
Can you name all 10 Avatars by heart ?
Matsya : Lord Visnu came in the form of a huge fish during the beginning of the Sat Yuga. During the Great Flood, Lord Visnu took the form of Matsya or fish rescued Manu and other beings who were in the boat. Manu was the first human on Earth from whom the human species is believed to emerge. During the Great Flood, Manu took one specimen of each species on Earth in his boat and Lord Visnu as a fish helped him sail to a new world.
Kurma: Lord Visnu appeared in the form of Kurma or a giant tortoise. During the churning of the ocean, the mount Mandrachala was used as the churning staff. But the ocean was too deep and Mandrachala started to drown. Then the Lord took the form of the giant tortoise and took the mountain on His back.
Varaha: He is the third avatar of Lord Visnu. The meaning of the word, Varaha means a wild boar. Lord Visnu took this incarnation to kill a demon named Hiranyaksha who carried the Earth to the bottom of the cosmic world. After defeating Hiranyaksha, Lord Visnu in the form of Varaha carried the Earth back and restored it in its original place.
Narasimha: This is a ferocious incarnation of Lord Visnu. Narasimha is half human and half lion. He appeared in the Sat ya Yuga to kill a demon named Hiranyakashipu who had a boon that he could neither be killed by a man nor an animal, neither inside the house nor outside, not at day nor at night, not on earth nor in the sky and not with any weapon. So, Lord Vishnu in a half human, half lion form killed the demon with His nails at dusk, at the threshold of Hiranyakashipu’s house taking the demon on His thighs.
Vamana: This avatar of Lord Visnu appeared in the Treta Yuga. A demon king named Bali ruled over the Universe. He was immensely powerful and he took control over the three worlds forcefully. But he was a benevolent king and believed in charity. So, Lord Visnu took the form of a Vamana or Brahmin dwarf and asked for three feet of land. To this, Bali agreed. As the Lord placed His feet, in two steps He took the heaven and the underworld. Bali realised that it was Lord Vishnu and so he offered his head to step over. As Lord Visnu stepped over Bali’s head, Bali went inside the Earth and was granted moksha.
Parashurama: Parashurama was the first Brahmin- Kshatriya. He was born to put an end to the tyrannical rule of the Kshatriyas. By worshipping Lord Shiva, Parashurama gained an axe which He wiped out the Kshatriya race from the face of the Earth 21 times.
Ram: Ram was the prince of Ayodhya and the one who vanquished the demon king Ravana. When Ram’s wife Sita was abducted by Ravana and taken to Lanka, Ram set out in search of her. After a long battle Ram was able to defeat Ravana and set up a benevolent rule.
Krishna & Balarama: Krishna is one of the most popular incarnations of Lord Visnu. He appeared in the form of Krishna during the Dwapara Yuga. He was born to kill the evil king Kamsa who also happened to be His maternal uncle. Krishna was the central character of the great epic Mahabharata where He acts as a mentor to Arjuna and helps the Pandavas to conquer the battle of Kurukshetra. He came along with his brother Balaram.
Buddha: Gautama Buddha is the ninth avatar of Lord Visnu. He decried the Vedas in order to stop the excessive killing of the animals.
Kalki: Kalki or the destroyer of evil is believed to take birth at the end of the present Yuga or the Kali Yuga. It is believed that this incarnation of the Lord will ride a white horse, carry a blazing sword in hand and put an end to any kind of threat to the mankind. He will destroy the evil and put an end to the Kali Yuga. It is also said that Kalki avatar will restart the Satya Yuga by preserving righteousness.